Gerard Butler in 300.
Zack Snyder, the director of the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, adapts Frank Miller's graphic novel based on the Battle of Thermopylae. In 480 B.C. 300 Spartans, led by King Leonidas, fought for 3 days against 100,000 Persian soldiers, fighting for King Xerxes. The Spartans' heroism in the face of overwhelming odds is legendary. Their eventual defeat propelled the different factions in Greece to unite and the result was the world's first democracy.
Visually the movie is quite stunning. It has many shots that are black and white or that have just a few objects in color. Similar in style to both Sin City (which was also from a Miller graphic novel) and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Most of the background was done with CGI and even the characters are made to look as if they might be computer enhanced.
The most striking image in the movie is the Spartans themselves. They are all built like Steve Reeves and they spend the entire movie clad only in helmets, sandals, tight black leather underwear and long blood-red capes. Gerard Butler looks every inch the rugged soldier king as he bellows encouragement to his ridiculously outnumbered army.
To be honest this is not my favorite genre of movie by a long shot. The whole eye candy thing bores me after a while. I was pleasantly surprised that this movie actually has decent characters to root for and invest in. My only real complaint is the now stock-in-trade slow motion fight scene. Ever since The Matrix it isn't enough to show actual real time fighting. Everything must be hyper real. Slowed down and now instead of jumping 6 feet, characters must be able to leap incredible distances. And here the blood even splatters in slo-mo too. I'm bored with it already.
Still for anyone seeking an action-packed, visually arresting movie about a legendary historical battle, then look no farther.
Lena Headey and Gerard Butler in 300.
Since Patrick brought it up, just why did the Spartans, in this movie anyway, only wear briefs and capes into battle? They were able to manipulate iron into spear-heads, gauntlets, shields and helmets so why not body armor? Sure, their pecs and abs make them look like superheroes but it does not seem logical to go into battle with so much exposed flesh.
As Patrick wrote, the battles and gore are plentiful. They dominate the movie and characterization is barely present. Leonides is given minimal personality. It is explained that he was taken away from his mother as a child, as was the Spartan way, and taught to be a warrior as he grew up. He learns to fight with his hands and with a weapon. With all of that being literally beaten into him, he still manages to become a devoted, loving father and a tender, sensitive husband. I guess I am doing something wrong in raising my sons with out slapping them around as I train them in sword fighting and how to survive in the frozen wilderness in only their underwear and a spear.
A side plot involving the Queen and politics threatens constantly to slow the movie down. The best that comes out of it is that you can draw endless comparisons from it to contemporary politics. The Queen asks the council for more soldiers to be sent to Iraq, oops I mean to help Leonides fight the Persians. The Democrats claim they did not support Bush's decision in going to war. Sorry! I mean the council did not give Leonides permission to go and fight. As Bush took the fight to the Middle East so Leonides took the fight to Xerxes, and in doing so spared lives in their own country's. Since the 300 get slaughtered, (hey Patrick already gave that plot point away) you could use this movie in support of the war in Iraq or against. It just depends on how you want to see it.
Lena Headey in 300.
While this movie isn't completely historically accurate anyway, Eric raises a very good question when he asks just why didn't the Spartans wear armor? The answer is of course, that in real life they did wear armor and didn't just run around in their underwear and capes to show off their ripped bodies. I also found it funny that King Leonidas' spoke with such a thick Scottish accent. I thought maybe his underwear should have been plaid, like a mini-kilt.
Like Patrick I was initially impressed by the graphics and then bored by them as in the end that's all this movie is able to provide. It looks great, but I didn't particularly care all that much about what happened. I was never emotionally invested in any of these characters. And where Sin City had a similar look, it was also a lot more fun as a movie and was subsequently more enjoyable.
I also agree with Eric about the way they made Leonidas such a loving and doting father, at least that's how he appears in the one scene with his son. How does that gel with the supposed Spartan attitude of physical abuse as a means of toughening up your children. His son is going to grow up to be a wimp if he keeps showing him such kindnesses, and even the Queen seems to indulge her son too much as she allows him to run off from her in another scene. So much for Spartan discipline.
I do disagree with Eric that the scenes with the Queen threaten to slow down the movie. I actually enjoyed those scenes more than the never-ending slow motion bloodshed in the battle scenes. Seriously, by the fourth wave of attacks I was ready for the Greeks to be slaughtered already.
Any one of dozens of different scenes from this movie would make an awesome poster or wallpaper for your computer as this movie truly does look amazing. But if I did own a poster like it, I still wouldn't want to sit and stare at it for 2 hours. I need more from a movie than pretty pictures.
Photos © Copyright Warner Bros. (2007)